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Catholic Dictionary




In the early Church a member of a group (usually of priests) who advised a bishop. Together they formed the presbytery, which, under a bishop, was the governing body of a community. The presbyter having no official duties, he was often commissioned by the bishop to teach, celebrate Mass, and baptize. Presbyters were usually of advanced age and, like a bishop, chosen by the people. Their rank was above that of deacons but inferior to that of bishops. There was no restriction on their number.